Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Japan considers refitting helicopter carrier for stealth fighters: government sources

27 December, 2017

TOKYO — Japan is considering refitting the Izumo helicopter carrier so that it can land US Marines F-35B stealth fighters, government sources said on Tuesday (Dec 26), as Tokyo faces China's maritime expansion and North Korea's missile and nuclear development.

Japan has not had fully fledged aircraft carriers since its World War Two defeat in 1945.

Any refit of the Izumo would be aimed at preparing for a scenario in which runways in Japan had been destroyed by missile attacks, and at bolstering defence around Japan's southwestern islands, where China's maritime activity has increased.

Three government sources close to the matter said the Japanese government was keeping in sight the possible future procurement of F-35B fighter jets, which can take off and land vertically, as it looks into the remodelling of the Izumo.

The 248-metre (814-feet) Izumo, Japan's largest warship equipped with a flat flight deck, was designed with an eye to hosting F-35B fighters. Its elevator connecting the deck with the hangar can carry the aircraft, the sources said.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Sink Cities

[Two stories on "sinking cities" - Jakarta and Bangkok.

The challenges for either is considerable. But for Jakarta, "a city that can't deliver basic services is a failed city,... On top of conventional issues like flooding and urbanization [there's] climate change, tipping the scale. And at this rate, people will be fighting in the streets for increasingly limited resources like clean water and safe living spaces."

Bangkok has similar problems. Drawing of ground water has led to subsistence and "The wet places will become wetter, and the dry places will become drier,... What we used to call a one-in-a-hundred-year event is happening more frequently."]

Commentary: Of course we don’t read poetry. We’re Singaporean

Pooja Nansi

25 Dec 2017

SINGAPORE: We are learning about the life cycles caterpillars. Our textbooks tell us that caterpillars spin warm, little cozy cocoons for themselves and eventually emerge as pretty butterflies.

But Mrs Chang, our science teacher details to 38 of us horrified but enthralled 9-years-olds how caterpillars digest themselves into a soup and how their cells work to reform that body-soup into a butterfly.

That, I think, without realising it, is the moment I first understand my love for poetry.

In early 2016, a National Arts Council survey found that fewer than one in two Singaporeans had read at least one "literary book" a year - obviously, a pretty dismal result.

As a working poet now, the questions I most commonly get asked are “why don’t Singaporeans read poetry?” and “why do you think the number of students taking Literature is declining?”

People couldn’t believe two dogs killed their owner. So the sheriff described the horror.


By Kristine Phillips
December 19 2017

Friend says story of woman mauled to death by own dogs doesn't add up

Rumors swirled around the death of Bethany Lynn Stephens, a young woman from rural Virginia who, authorities said, was mauled to death by her dogs while out on a walk last week.

Many suspected that someone else killed her and doubted that the dogs were responsible. Goochland County Sheriff Jim Agnew said the misinformation, particularly on social media, was widespread and has complicated the investigation. So he decided to disclose one gruesome detail that he had been reluctant to divulge out of concern for Stephens’s family — in hopes of reassuring the public that there isn’t a killer on the loose.

A climate cure worse than the disease

By Bjørn Lomborg

22 December, 2017


Two years after the Paris climate agreement was signed, the French capital this month again attracted the world’s good and great, who gathered for President Emmanuel Macron’s One Planet Summit.

In turns blasting United States President Donald Trump for withdrawing from the Paris accord and telling each other that it remains on track, politicians formed a self-congratulatory huddle with celebrity campaigners and business leaders.

We should treat such smug bonhomie with caution. Goodwill isn’t enough to stop climate change, and history is littered with well-meaning policies that turned out be unhelpful, or even worsen than the problems they were meant to address.

One particularly harrowing example was Mao Zedong’s attempt to improve crop yields and health by eradicating sparrows. The population of locusts ballooned, contributing to a famine that claimed around 30 million lives.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Human Rights Watch calls on Singapore to relax free speech, assembly laws

13 Dec 2017


SINGAPORE: The Singapore Government's laws limiting critical speech and peaceful assembly are overly broad and make the country a repressive place severely restricting what can be said and published, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday (Dec 13).

In its first wide-ranging report on Singapore in 12 years, the group called on the Government to amend or repeal laws and rules that restrict speech and assembly and drop charges against individuals for peaceful speech and assembly.

Singapore's Ministry of Communications and Information did not immediately have a comment on the report. The Government has held the position that Singapore's laws and regulations were needed to maintain social order and harmony.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Elderly to make up almost half of S’pore population by 2050: United Nations

[I have reservations about the stats here, and would like to see the assumptions for the projections. But I do not have time to analyse the figures or check against raw stats so I am just putting this out first. Critique, if warranted, to follow later.]


By Siau Ming En

06 December, 2017

SINGAPORE – The Republic’s population size is expected to reach 6.34 million in 2030, based on projections from the United Nations (UN) released this year.

By then, there will be 806,000 people under 15 years old, and 1.8 million people who are aged 65 years or older - making up about 28 per cent of the total population. The numbers will reach 722,000 and 3.08 million, respectively, out of a total population of 6.58 million by 2050. This means that in about three decades, almost half (47 per cent) of Singapore’s total population will be at least 65 years old.

According to the UN’s 2017 World Population Ageing report, Singapore’s population stood at 5.71 million as of this year, consisting of 855,000 people under the age of 15, and 886,000 people aged 65 and above.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

‘Journalism for rent’: Inside the secretive firm behind the Trump dossier

By Jack Gillum and Shawn Boburg

December 11 2017

Washington Post

Fusion GPS bills itself as a corporate research firm, but in many ways it operates with the secrecy of a spy agency. No sign marks its headquarters above a coffee shop in Northwest Washington. Its website consists of two sentences and an email address. Its client list is closely held.

The small firm has been under intense public scrutiny for producing the 35-page document known as the Trump dossier. Senior executives summoned to testify before Congress in October invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and the firm is resisting a congressional subpoena for bank records that would reveal who has paid for its services.

But hundreds of internal company documents obtained by The Washington Post reveal how Fusion, a firm led by former journalists, has used investigative reporting techniques and media connections to advance the interests of an eclectic range of clients on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and in the nation’s capital. The firm has played an unseen role in stories that dominated headlines in recent years.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The "God" Question

[I drafted this post over a year ago, but did not publish it because I took a while to respond to the presumptuousness of the various "theists" and their interpretation of "atheism".

Then this letter:]

Give those with no religious beliefs a voice in efforts to promote peace
Last year, the release of the General Household Survey 2015 report showed that more Singapore residents are not identifying themselves with any religion.
Those without religious affiliation made up 18.5 per cent of the resident population, up from 17 per cent in 2010, with the numbers being higher among younger residents compared with those in 2010.
It was reported that of those aged 15 to 24, 23 per cent said that they had no religious affiliation, while the figure was 14.6 per cent among residents aged 55 and above.
There appears to be an increasing trend of young persons having no religion.
If the mandate of the IRO is to promote racial and religious harmony in Singapore and it is serious about this, surely the “faithless” that constitute such a significant part of Singapore need to have a seat at the table.
I hope the organisation will consider this suggestion.

[To be fair, perhaps this letter-writer was truly clueless. And did not warrant this response on FB:
Please identify the head of the "faithless" (which BTW is an implied insult) that will represent this group of people without religious affiliation.

The basic assumption of the "faithful" (and I use this as insultingly as I can) is that the "faithless" is s homogeneous group of anti-religious militants/bigots/zealots/fascists/ "insert your own derogatory adjective".

The "faithless" could be faithless for many reasons. Maybe their faith failed them. Maybe the dogma/doctrine of their faith made no sense. Maybe they were never raised in any kind of faith and they grew up and outgrew fantasy and magic. Maybe their faith collided with reality, and rationality won. Maybe they were betrayed by leaders of their faith. Or members of their church/temple/mosque. Maybe they were denounced by their faith. Maybe they are too rational or too proud, or too individualistic, or too disinterest, or too happy, or too depressed, or too troubled. 
Or maybe they just haven't found a faith that made sense to them.
Atheists are atheists for many reasons. The assumption that all atheists are the same, is the same thought processes that lurks beneath arrogant assumptions about gender, race, and other arbitrarily discriminatory behaviour.

Naming Singapore

[From over a year back - on the naming of Singapore. Two... "perspectives".]

Origin of 'Singapore' found in old maps

If we look at maps going back 500 years, we can form an alternative thesis for how Singapore got its name ("No lions in S'pore but..."; May 21).

Starting in 1502, maps of the region named the Malaysian peninsula south of Malacca with variations of the name "Barxingapara".

By the 1550s, the part of Malaysia east of Changi was called "Cape Cincapula".

The first known example of a name on the island we now inhabit comes from a hand-drawn Dutch chart from the late 17th century, where the island is named "T Lang Isyl" (Long Island), while the waterway south is called "Straat Sincapura" (Singapore Strait).

In 1755, Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, a great French mapmaker, published an extremely detailed map of the region, in which our island is named "Pulo ou Isle Panjang" (Long Island), the waterway that separates Singapore from Malaysia is named "The Old Strait of Sincapour" and the waterway to the south, "The New Strait of Sincapour".

It is not until 1787 that we find a map in which the island carries three names: "Paulau Panjang", "Iatana" and "Sincapour".

The historical record is clear: Years before any map located the island of Singapore, maps of the region were calling southern Malaysia "Barxingapara", then there was Cape Cincapula, and then a waterway, Sincapura Straits.

But why "Barxingapara"? Dr Peter Borschberg of the National University of Singapore speculates in his article Singapura In Early Modern Cartography that "bar" means a kingdom of a coastal region, "xin" means "China", and "gapara" is the Javanese word for "gateway".

As Singapore marks the transition from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea, "The Kingdom of the Gateway to China" may not be as poetic as "Lion City", but has the history of printed maps to support its claim as the real origin of the name of our country.

Eric Rosenkranz

No lions in Singapore but...

We all know how our Lion City got its name, but indulge me for a moment.

"According to legend, Sang Nila Utama, a prince from Palembang (the capital of Srivijaya), was out on a hunting trip when he caught sight of an animal he had never seen before. Taking it to be a good sign, he founded a city where the animal had been spotted, naming it "The Lion City" or Singapura, from the Sanskrit words "simha" (lion) and "pura" (city)." -

I heard the name Sang Nila Utama for the first time when, as a newly arrived student in Singapore, I made my tourist's pilgrimage to the Merlion at Sentosa. Nila Utama (Sang being an honorific to show his royal descent) came to life in a cartoon film that co-starred a lion, a raging storm and a sea-monster, with a guest appearance by a prescient stag.

The movie was informative, delightful, engaging - all the things it was supposed to be. But by the time my fellow tourists and I had emerged into the bright sunlight atop the Merlion, Nila Utama and his fable had been replaced with more recent images of gleaming glass skylines and the bustling trade legacy of a multicultural, former-colonial port city: After all, that is what myths are for - to entertain, even astonish and inspire awe, not unlike a fantasy movie saga, but hardly to be taken seriously… aren't they?

Myths aggrandise history, sometimes to the point of distortion, but in doing so they preserve an account of it and ensure that it is transmitted from generation to generation. In all honesty, unless Sang Nila Utama had met the lion or overcome the sea-monster, the millions of visitors to the Merlion wouldn't have ever heard of him. But myth is a twin-edged sword because in aggrandising a story, it sometimes trivialises it. Example:

Me (to person chosen at random): "Hi. Can you tell me who founded Singapore?"

Unsuspecting respondent: "Erm… I think it was Stamford Raffles."

Me: "What about Sang Nila Utama? He came here centuries before Raffles."

Respondent: "That's just a myth. Not real."

And that's where that conversation remained for many years, during the course of which Singapore became home, not just in terms of a tax status but also in very personal ways - love, death, family and career. Even writing is something that happened to me here. It may have been why Sang Nila Utama continued to intrigue me. For a fact, my other books on mythology - or mythohistory as I prefer to call it - have been a means to reclaim identity in one form or another.

Nila Utama was my anchor as I dived into the emotionally loaded question of my identity as Singaporean; a sense of validation that I too belonged here. As a result, the above conversation was extended thus:

Me: "Not real? Why do you say that?"

Respondent (disdainful): "Because there never were any lions in Singapore. The whole story is fluff!"

Now that is an indisputable fact. Lions are not native to this part of the world. Indeed, some suggest that the animal the historical counterpart of Nila Utama may have seen was… wait for it… a tapir.

I like tapirs. I think they are cute and fuzzy. Honestly, I have nothing against them and make it a point to conduct every tired and happily sated visitor I accompany to the Singapore Zoo to the small, unassuming enclosure at the end of the walking trail despite their many protests; that is how much I like tapirs. The Asian in me, however, doesn't quite reckon tapirs on the same plane as lions, with the result that it was disappointing to hold on to the legend of a prince who couldn't tell the deadly, majestic king of the jungle from a harmless tapir as a source of self-validation.

I tried telling myself "it's just a myth". By then, however, I was far too invested - both in Nila Utama's story and the place I called home. Curiosity had turned into questions, sometimes arguments about what defined a nation and its people, what determined belonging and was the fact that I cared not enough to make me belong here. And from this maelstrom was born a book - "3", the story not just of Sang Nila Utama, but more.

The storyline is drawn mainly from the Malay Annals or the Sejarah Melayu, a genealogical work detailing the line of the Malay Sultanate, founded by Iskander Shah around 1390CE. The Annals identify Nila Utama, along with his father and brother, as descended from the skies in mythical magnificence and magical glory, the blood of Alexander the Great in their veins. For all the rhetoric, however, Nila Utama's antecedents remain historically obscure, enough to justify the aforementioned random respondent's view that Singapore's history can be deemed as properly begun only from the times of Sir Stamford Raffles.

"3" is, however, also a tale of the era, a window on how a relatively small geographical region both affects and is affected by global trends of economic and political change. At a time when the Delhi Sultanate is gaining sway across the Indian subcontinent, against the backdrop of Genghis Khan's aspirations to a Mongol empire and the ongoing Crusades across Europe and the Middle East, the seas become the source of political power and prosperity.

Consequently, it is during this period that the Srivijaya Empire, a thalassocratic state broadly comprising the region of the modern-day Indonesian islands, reaches its zenith and inevitably begins its decline. Trade drives the new trend of commerce as conquest, setting the stage for centuries of colonisation and economic dominion and, the Malay Annals tell us, a hundred longships from the Song Emperor fill the harbour at Palembang.

Was this impressive armada in fact a gift from China to the ruler of Srivijaya; an act that then inspired said Srivijaya ruler to give his daughter as wife and his empire as dower to the Song Emperor? Or are they hints at a history of conquest and exile, hidden in metaphor and preserved as myth so that the story would endure through the cusp of religion - and thus sanctioned record - over subsequent centuries and come to us through a variety of narratives: Indonesian, Malay, Indian and even Portuguese.

An important question, for this is where the story really begins. The exiled ruler leaves Palembang, taking with him his family, including his young son, the prince who will, one day, sail to the white-sand shores of Tumasik. What is it that he finds there, hidden in metaphor and preserved as myth; the myth of a lion?

Nila Utama's story is worth telling, not for the fact that he gave our country the name it now bears, but because he did so for a reason. Myth or history, there were those who welcomed Nila Utama on these shores, those who believed that identity comes from wanting to belong. They believed that a nation was made by those who cared. And that is the story that needs be told.

Sure, there were no lions in Singapore… or Tumasik… or whatever names this island once had. And there are, as yet, no categorical answers to the question of who or what Sang Nila Utama was: a coloniser, a refugee or simply a man looking for himself.

As for the rest of it - call it myth if you like, but I want to believe that it was the heart of a lion and the spirit of one that brought Nila Utama… and me… home.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Commentary: Trump's recognition of Jerusalem upends years of necessary shadow play

Peter Van Buren

8 Dec 2017


WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s formal recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing some seven decades of American policy, is arguably the most unnecessary decision of his time in office and one that will have consequences lingering far past his tenure.
The decision may yield some domestic political advantage among Jewish and evangelical Christian voters for the president, but at irrationally high expense globally.

Jerusalem is where Israel's president presides, and where the parliament, supreme court and most government ministries are located. In practical terms, it is the capital.

However, unlike in nearly every other nation, the US maintains its formal embassy in another city, Tel Aviv. It keeps a consulate in West Jerusalem and a consular annex in East Jerusalem, the part of the city annexed by Israel in 1967 and expected by many Palestinians to be the capital of their future state. Washington also has an office directly on the Green Line, the division point between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Diplomats, as well as Israeli officials, understand normally an embassy is the head office located in the capital, and a consulate is a less important branch located elsewhere. But they also know from experience in Israel which door to knock on when they need to get business done, regardless of what the nameplate reads out front.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions.

Inspired Life

By John Bargh

November 22 2017

Washington Post

When my daughter was growing up, she often wanted to rush off to do fun things with her friends — get into the water at the beach, ride off on her bike — without taking the proper safety precautions first. I’d have to stop her in her tracks to first put on the sunscreen, or her bike helmet and knee pads, with her standing there impatiently. “Safety first, fun second,” was my mantra.

Keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe from harm is perhaps our strongest human motivation, deeply embedded in our very DNA. It is so deep and important that it influences much of what we think and do, maybe more than we might expect. For example, over a decade now of research in political psychology consistently shows that how physically threatened or fearful a person feels is a key factor — although clearly not the only one — in whether he or she holds conservative or liberal attitudes.

Conservatives, it turns out, react more strongly to physical threat than liberals do. In fact, their greater concern with physical safety seems to be determined early in life: In one University of California study, the more fear a 4-year-old showed in a laboratory situation, the more conservative his or her political attitudes were found to be 20 years later. Brain imaging studies have even shown that the fear center of the brain, the amygdala, is actually larger in conservatives than in liberals. And many other laboratory studies have found that when adult liberals experienced physical threat, their political and social attitudes became more conservative (temporarily, of course). But no one had ever turned conservatives into liberals.

Until we did.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

I didn’t expect Aljunied GRC winning margin in 2015 GE to be so close: Low Thia Khiang

Siau Ming En


October 31, 2017

SINGAPORE – Revealing that he was confident the Workers’ Party (WP) would retain Aljunied GRC in the 2015 General Election, WP chief Low Thia Khiang conceded that he was surprised by the narrow winning margin in an interview contained in the party’s commemorative book.

The WP team headed by Mr Low and consisting Ms Sylvia Lim, Mr Pritam Singh, Mr Faisal Manap and Mr Chen Show Mao garnered 50.95 per cent of the vote, edging out the People’s Action Party (PAP) slate comprising mainly first-time candidates by 2,612 votes, or 1.9 per cent of the votes cast.

“I was surprised by the results of Aljunied,” said Mr Low in the lengthy interview carried in Walking With Singapore, which will be launched this Friday (Nov 3) at the WP’s 60th anniversary dinner.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The battle of brains vs brawn

29 Oct 2017


NEW YORK: Do brains trump brawn? A remarkable new study of how the human body prioritises its inner workings found that if you intensely think at the same time as you intensely exercise, your performance in both thinking and moving can worsen. But your muscles’ performance will decline much more than your brain’s will, the study found.

The results raise interesting questions about the roles that our body’s wide-ranging abilities may have played in the evolution of humans and also whether a hard workout is the ideal time to be cogitating.

Compared to almost all other animals, we humans have disproportionately large brains for our size. Our supersized cranial contents probably provided an advantage during our evolution as a species. Smart creatures presumably could have outwitted predators and outmaneuvered prey, keeping themselves fed, uneaten and winners in the biological sweepstakes to pass on their genes.

But most other species eschewed developing similarly outsized brains during evolution because large brains carry a hefty metabolic cost. Brains are extraordinarily hungry organs, requiring, ounce for ounce, more calories to sustain their operations than almost any other tissue, and these caloric demands rise when the brain is hard at work. Thinking demands considerable bodily fuel.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Singapore malls are primed for Amazon's click de grace


October 24, 2017

HONG KONG — Singapore's malls are one click away from irrelevance, though the investment trusts that own them are carrying on as if nothing has changed.

The first hint of trouble showed up in January when department store John Little shut down after a 174-year run. Then, in July, Inc. introduced its two-hour Prime Now delivery service, choosing the city-state of 5.6 million people as the testing ground to fine-tune its Southeast Asia ambitions.

The landlords don't appear all that perturbed; at least not yet. CapitaLand Mall Trust, the island's biggest retail real-estate investment trust, announced 2.78 Singapore cents (2 cents) in dividends last week, unchanged from a year earlier. That's an annual yield of almost 5.5 per cent at a time when the 10-year Singapore government bond offers only 2.2 per cent. The tantalising premium is keeping investors hooked.

Even the analyst community is discounting the threat from online shopping: There are 13 buy recommendations on the CapitaLand Mall REIT, and not a single sell, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. But look under the hood, and there are signs that not everything is hunky dory.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Regional defence investments in large amphibious vessels driven by geography and ships’ versatility

Ben Ho

October 8, 2017

SINGAPORE — Talk of naval modernisation in South-east Asia usually revolves around the acquisition of traditional naval platforms such as submarines and frigates. What has slipped under the radar in recent years is the increased interest in large amphibious warfare vessels, such as that of Singapore’s Endurance-class landing ships tank, that enable the deployment of forces in the air and sea as well as on land.

Over the past year, the Philippines has acquired two 11,000-ton Tarlac-class landing ships, the first of such size and capability to be acquired by Manila. Malaysia is also mulling a large amphibious warfare vessel in the Multi-Role Support Ship, while Myanmar has reportedly expressed interest in a landing ship based on Indonesia’s 11,000-ton Makassar-class platform.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

On the Record: Liu Thai Ker, architect and former master planner of Singapore


SINGAPORE: Award-winning architect, Liu Thai Ker, created controversy a few years ago when he said that Singapore’s urban planners need to design the city for a population of 10 million. At a time when some were voicing concerns about the pressures being put on infrastructure from a growing population - largely from overseas - many scoffed when he made that statement.

Today, he stands by it, saying it’s not too late to start planning infrastructure to accommodate a possibly larger population in the future. His motto is: if the economy grows and population grows, we need to be prepared for it.

Liu is the eldest son of artist Liu Kang and planned to follow in his father’s footsteps but circumstances railroaded his plans and he ended up studying architecture instead.

He doesn’t regret it one bit.

His career has seen him influence Singapore’s urban landscape as CEO of the Housing and Development Board (HDB) between 1979 and 1989 and as CEO and Chief Planner of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) between 1989 and 1992. He’s also noted for being a proponent of heritage and nature conservation.

Today, he is the founding chairman of the Centre for Liveable Cities and Senior Director of RSP Architects, leading master-planning and urban design efforts in more than 30 cities.

He went “On the Record” with Bharati Jagdish about why his own efforts to plan for a larger population failed, why having more people in Singapore won’t compromise liveability and why Singapore needs more intellectual thinkers.

They first talked about the factors that have influenced him the most over the years.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Singaporean mother’s letter to her daughter on her 21st birthday

Mariam Aljunied

October 3, 2017

This is a letter from chartered psychologist Mariam Aljunied to her daughter Sara when she turned 21 this year, in which Dr Mariam Aljunied spoke about their family history dating back to the year Singapore was founded in 1819 and what it means to be a Singaporean growing up today.

Dr Mariam Aljunied’s great-great-great-grandfather, Syed Omar Ali Aljunied, built Singapore’s first mosque - Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka - in 1820 and also donated the land on which St Andrew’s Cathedral now stands to Sir Stamford Raffles.

Dear Sara,

You’ve been a blessing and a gift to both me and your dad. Your late Habib (granddad) once reminded me that the two things we must bequeath to our children are “roots to stay anchored, and wings to fly”. I’ve never forgotten this message. So in this significant year, your 21st, I want to share with you some things that I hope you too will never forget. These are messages that I’ve learnt in my lifetime: messages from the past, present and future; and messages that are forever.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Commentary: 99-year HDB flats a chance to review homeownership and retirement policies

With the impending lease expiry of private residences along Lorong 3 Geylang, Ng Kok Hoe explores the challenges of framing homeownership as an appreciating asset that provides a source of retirement income.

By Ng Kok Hoe

01 Oct 2017

SINGAPORE: In March, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong reminded the public that Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats must be returned to the state when their 99-year leases expire.

Therefore, flat buyers should not fork out large sums for old resale flats on the chance that they may profit from the Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme, he emphasised.

There has been no test case for this policy position so far, as major construction of HDB flats began only in the 1960s, which means that the earliest leases will only expire after 2060.

But in June, the owners of private residences along Lorong 3 Geylang were given notice that when their land leases expire in 2020, their properties must be surrendered to the Singapore Land Authority with no compensation.

Although these were private residences on 60-year leases, and most have been rented out to foreign workers and temple operators instead of being owner-occupied, the episode served as a reality check for many HDB flat owners.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin retires, receives rare valedictory reference

27 Sept 2017

SINGAPORE: Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin was given a rare honour on Wednesday (Sep 27) to mark his retirement after more than 50 years of public service.

A valedictory reference was conducted to pay tribute to his contributions to Singapore. It’s a formal sitting of a full bench of Supreme Court judges to mark events of special significance.

Justice Chao, 75, is the only judge who served under all four Chief Justices in post-independent Singapore.

Opening the valedictory reference, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon hailed Justice Chao as a role model for lawyers, saying he “personified the very essence of what it means to be an excellent judge, and to do so with the right temperament”.

The Chief Justice recalled a conversation he had with Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah in which the latter said: “The entirety of my self-education as a judge was to ask myself every time I had a difficult situation, ‘What would Hick Tin do?’”

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Tuas Power-ST Marine consortium to build 5th desalination plant


27 Sept 2017

SINGAPORE: Singapore's fifth desalination plant will be built on Jurong Island by Tuas Power-Singapore Technologies Marine (TP-STM) consortium, national water agency PUB said on Wednesday (Sep 27).

The consortium will form a concession company to enter into a Water Purchase Agreement with PUB by October, the agency said.

The new desalination plant, expected to be operational by 2020, will add 30 million gallons or about 137,000 cubic metres of water a day to Singapore's water supply."The seawater reverse-osmosis desalination plant will be co-located with Tuas Power’s existing Tembusu Multi-Utilities Complex to derive synergies in resources such as seawater intake and outfall structures, and energy from the in-plant generation facilities," PUB said.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Commentary on Cherian George's "Monumental Miscalculation" opinion piece.

Mothership published Cherian George's opinion piece on The Singapore presidential (s)election: A monumental miscalculation.

In it, George asserts,  
Shutting out potential candidates from the Chinese majority and engaging in crude tokenism tainted Halimah’s entry into the Istana. Worse, it unleashed a social media flurry of racist remarks in the guise of political comment, injuring the very harmony that the government claimed it was trying to promote. I can think of few political events that reveal so starkly the tendencies that prevent Singapore from maturing as a polity: the government’s distrust of the people, its insistence on getting its way, and its lack of finesse in dealing with contentious issues.
I agree that that was an unintended effect of this reserved election. One might even suggest that if unintended, it was not unanticipated. But that would be explained by the "lack of finesse" that is the hallmark of the PAP.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Commentary: The growing importance of China studies with Singapore characteristics

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s official visit to China and its many positive outcomes are a welcomed assurance that Singapore-China bilateral ties are again making headway.

Singapore, which will take over as ASEAN chair next year, will promote stronger cooperation between the association and China. The leaders of both countries also discussed the potential of new and existing collaborations, including Singapore’s multiple roles in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The numerous possibilities for mutual cooperation between the two countries reaffirm the importance of nurturing Singaporeans who can, in their respective fields, tap into these opportunities and serve as bridges between Singapore and China.

It is in this spirit that the Singapore Government has long recognised the value of an education in China studies.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Lim Siong Guan’s lecture on the Rise and Fall of Empires sounds like a complaint about today’s youth

[A cheeky poke at Lim Siong Guan's lecture.]

What can a British general teach us about Singapore's future?

By Sulaiman Daud

September 14, 2017

Born in 1897, Lt. General Sir John Bagot Glubb is most famous for serving as the commanding officer of the Arab Legion – another name for the army of the Kingdom of Jordan in the 1940s. Having fought in World War 1, he also saw action in World War 2 and the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

Aside from commanding armies, Glubb also dabbled in writing. One of his essays, The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival, caught the eye of former top civil servant Lim Siong Guan.

Lim is best known for serving as the former head of the Civil Service, and Group President of the GIC.

Lim chose to speak about the lessons one could learn from that essay for a Singaporean context, during a lecture he gave at the Institute of Policy Studies’ Nathan Lecture, quoting Glubb’s analysis on the seven stages of the rise and fall of great nations, which we summarised below:

Our dangerous, idiotic national conversation


By George F. Will
Opinion writer

September 20, 2017

At this shank end of a summer that a calmer America someday will remember with embarrassment, you must remember this: In the population of 325 million, a small sliver crouches on the wilder shores of politics, another sliver lives in the dark forest of mental disorder, and there is a substantial overlap between these slivers. At most moments, 312 million are not listening to excitable broadcasters making mountains of significance out of molehills of political effluvia.

Still, after a season of dangerous talk about responding to idiotic talk by abridging First Amendment protections, Americans should consider how, if at all, to respond to “cheap speech.” That phrase was coined 22 years ago by Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law School. Writing in the Yale Law Journal (“Cheap Speech and What It Will Do”) at the dawn of the Internet, he said that new information technologies were about to “dramatically reduce the costs of distributing speech,” and that this would produce a “much more democratic and diverse” social environment. Power would drain from “intermediaries” (publishers, book and music store owners, etc.) but this might take a toll on “social and cultural cohesion.”

Monday, September 11, 2017

Growing old, but no letting go of healthier pursuits

Toh Ee Ming AND
Valerie Koh

September 9, 2017

SINGAPORE — Retiring from her high-powered job as a senior vice-president at Citibank after more than 20 years in the sector, Madam Betty Teo suddenly found herself at standstill.

There was no email to clear, no problem to solve, no report to submit, no performance target to hit, she said. Gone, too, was time spent socialising with colleagues over lunch.

“Every morning, I saw the women in their heels, dressed nicely, taking the train to work, and I started to envy them… I felt (like I had lost) my identity,” the 58-year-old said.

Her husband, a civil servant, still works, so in the first six months of her retirement in 2011, she tried to keep herself engaged by taking up cooking and baking classes, or exercising at community centres, but there was “no real sense of belonging”.

A chance meeting with a member from the Women’s Initiative for Ageing Successfully (Wings) one day led her to sign up for various courses at the non-profit organisation. It was only then that she started to pay heed to the things she used to neglect while working: Eating “mindfully”, learning to build positive relationships, and to enjoy time to herself.

This was very different from the past — when everything was done in a rush, from scarfing down lunches at the office desk to exercising at the gym, and when all she had were “work goals”, never personal ones. It was “just work and family”, with barely enough time for rest, let alone pursue hobbies, she said.

“I had many achievements in my career, but there was no meaning.”

Friday, September 8, 2017

North Korea’s nuclear arsenal threatens China’s path to power

Jane Perlez

September 6, 2017

BEIJING — The two men stood together on the reviewing stand in the North Korean capital: a top official in China’s communist leadership wearing a tailored business suit and a young dictator in a blue jacket buttoned to his chin.

Mr Liu Yunshan, the visiting Chinese dignitary, and Mr Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, tried to put on a show of friendship, chatting amiably as the cameras rolled, but just as often they stood silent, staring ahead as a military parade passed before them.

Nearly two years have elapsed since that encounter, the last high-level visit between China and North Korea. The stretch of time is a sign of the distance between two nations with a torturous history: one a rising power seeking regional dominance, the other an unpredictable neighbor with its own ambitions.

China has made little secret of its long-term goal to replace the United States as the major power in Asia and assume what it considers its rightful position at the center of the fastest-growing, most dynamic region in the world.

But North Korea, which defied Beijing by testing a sixth nuclear bomb on Sunday (Sept 3), has emerged as an unexpected and persistent obstacle.

News commentary: US accepts offer of RSAF helicopters for Hurricane Harvey disaster relief

My main reaction when SG offered help to the US, and the US accepted that help was... the US would accept help from a little red dot? That's... humility? Self-assuredness? Confidence?

Then a question: Would a rising Great Power with aspirations to Super Power status act in the same way?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

China questions its morals over bad bike-sharing behaviour

September 4, 2017

BEIJING — Mr Liu Lijing, a mechanic in Beijing, does not usually pay much attention to manners. He does not mind when people blast loud music, and he strolls the alleyways near his home in a top stained with grease. But when a stranger recently ditched a bicycle in the bushes outside his door, Mr Liu was irate.

Start-ups have flooded the city with shared bikes, he complained, and people have been leaving them all over the place without thinking about other residents. “There’s no sense of decency anymore,” he muttered, picking up the discarded bike and heaving it into the air in anger. “We treat each other like enemies.”

Monday, September 4, 2017

Cost, political considerations underpin growing Chinese weapon sales to South-east Asia

Ho Wan Beng Ben

September 2, 2017


SINGAPORE — Chinese arms deals with South-east Asian nations have been making the headlines recently.

Last month, it was reported that China had offered Malaysia rocket launchers and a radar system – a claim which Putrajaya subsequently denied. This came after Malaysia purchased four Littoral Mission Ships from China last year – the first major defence contract inked between the two nations.

And earlier this year, Thailand confirmed that it had bought three made-in-China submarines after having not operated such a platform since the 1950s.

These are just some of the deals that South-east Asian countries have concluded with Chinese defence companies in recent years, and experts say that political, rather than actual military necessity, are largely behind these deals.

Defence analyst Bernard Loo told TODAY that the need to keep up with the Jones, or in other words, prestige, would be one key consideration behind the recent transfer of Chinese arms to South-east Asia. He said their relatively lower cost make them attractive to potential buyers.

“Chinese weapon systems are cheap and yet look good,” said Associate Professor Loo, who is with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Perils of owning ageing leasehold properties

By Cecilia Chow
The Edge Property
April 21, 2017

A week ago, Singapore permanent resident Ms Lew was just calculating the remaining lease on her 700 sq ft, three-room HDB flat in Marine Parade and wondering how much it could fetch in the resale market. “I’m just a couple of years from retirement,” she says. Lew’s flat, like the more than 7,000 in Marine Parade, was completed in 1975. According to HDB’s website, Marine Parade was the first housing estate to be built on reclaimed land. This means that the flats in Marine Parade have 57 years remaining on their 99-year leases.

Singaporean Ms Aw, who bought her 1,128 sq ft, five-room HDB flat in Marine Parade 17 years ago, says she now feels “a little unsettled”. Even though her flat is already fully paid for, the 56-year-old says, “My retirement is locked in this flat. If I want to make money from it, I will have to sell it and downgrade to a smaller BTO [built-to-order] flat so I won’t be saddled with a big home loan”.

The two HDB owners are representative of many others staying in ageing leasehold properties who became worried, following National Development Minister Lawrence Wong’s blog post on March 24. It was intended to caution buyers against paying high prices for older HDB flats on the assumption that their flats would automatically be eligible for the Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS).

Wong wrote, “In fact, for the vast majority of HDB flats, the leases will eventually run out, and the flats will be returned to HDB, which will in turn have to surrender the land to the State.” He added, “As the leases run down, especially towards the tail-end, the flat prices will come down correspondingly.”

The write way to remember and honour dead colleagues

We spend as much time with colleagues as we do with our families, often more. Work takes up so much of our lives. It needs full remembrance when we die.

Michael Skapinker

June 29, 2017

Whenever a partner or retired partner of Cravath, Swaine & Moore dies, the 198-year-old United States law firm offers the bereaved family a “Cravath walk”.

This involves the retired and active partners marching at the funeral, two-by-two, in age order — oldest lawyer to youngest. I heard about the “Cravath walk” last week.

Mr Mark Greene, head of the firm’s corporate department and of its international practice, told me that the most recent walk had taken place at a memorial service about a month ago for a lawyer who had died at the age of 43.

The “walk” sounds slightly macabre, but it makes sense.

Naval vessels, shadowy by intent, are hard for commercial ships to spot

August 25, 2017

HONG KONG — The tropical sky off Singapore was utterly dark when an oil tanker plowed into the side of the American destroyer John S. McCain before dawn on Monday (Aug 21) — but the moonless night may have been only one of the reasons that the tanker’s crew may have had trouble seeing a warship in their path.

Hard to see and hard to track electronically, naval vessels have long posed special perils to night-time navigation. That has proved deadly this summer in crowded waters like those near Singapore and Tokyo, where another American warship, the Fitzgerald, was struck by a cargo freighter under a waning crescent moon on June 17.

The issue has prompted growing alarm in the commercial shipping industry — which has started warning merchant vessels to be extra careful around warships — and in the United States Navy, which began pausing its worldwide operations this week for a day or two to allow time for safety reviews.

Monday, August 21, 2017

News Commentary: USS John S McCain collides with oil tanker off coast of Singapore.

Throwing shade (I think I'm using "shade" correctly in this case):
From eyeballing the map, the location seems to be quite a bit north of Pedra Branca and in Malaysian waters, possibly. From reports, 4 ships from SGN and SG Coast Guard are attending to the incident and the damaged vessels since 0532hrs. Malaysia has also sent one ship (likely Navy) to render assistance. Maybe from their new maritime base at Middle Rocks, just south of Pedra Branca. No confirmation of the time the MY ships were deployed, but the earliest tweet with info on MY ship deployment was at 0909hrs. Quite sure it was not deployed so late. I believe their working day starts at 0800hrs.

Also from SG: Two Super Pumas and one Chinook (helicopters) assisting (transporting injured sailors for medical attention). No info on MY helicopters deployed.

From another news report: "Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Ministry said it stands ready to help in the search and rescue operation if needed. This will need to be coordinated with the Indonesian military, ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir said."

My rough translation of the Indonesian statement is: "do you require wayang kulit?"

Friday, August 18, 2017

China’s fear of becoming Japan is said to drive deal crackdown

August 3, 2017

SINGAPORE — Chinese President Xi Jinping’s top economic adviser commissioned a study earlier this year to see how China could avoid the fate of Japan’s epic bust in the 1990s and decades of stagnation that followed.

The report covered a wide range of topics, from the Plaza Accord on currency to a real-estate bubble to demographics that made Japan the oldest population in Asia, according to a person familiar with the matter who has seen the report. While details are scarce, the person revealed one key recommendation that policy makers have since implemented: The need to curtail a global buying spree by some of the nation’s biggest private companies.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

At the heart of every restaurant

Tom Sietsema

August 7, 2017

Our food critic works a shift to understand why top chefs are starting to give dishwashers their due.

My dish hose has a mind of its own.

Every time I use it to spray a geyser of water onto a dirty plate, it splashes clean whatever it touches — and shoots much of the detritus back into my face. By the end of my shift, I’ve ingested specks of just about every dish at this restaurant: rice, seafood, salsa, black beans, you name it. And each time I set the wriggling rubber snake down between tasks, it repositions itself, obliging me to apologize to colleagues for soaking more than just myself.

Until recently, the most dishes I’ve ever washed were at home, following a dinner party for 10. So why would I sign up to do it at a 250-seat restaurant? Because I wanted to experience firsthand the job that CNN star Anthony Bourdain says taught him “every important lesson of my life,” the one New York chef Daniel Boulud calls “the best way to enter the business.”

Plenty of bandwidth has been lavished on the men and women who cook the food, pour the wine and otherwise pamper us in restaurants. Scant attention has been paid to some of the lowest-paid workers with the most responsibility, the ones chefs say are the linchpins of the restaurant kitchen. “You can’t have a successful service in a restaurant without a great dishwasher,” says Emeril Lagasse, the New Orleans-based chef and cookbook author with 14 restaurants across the country. “Bad ones will bring the ship down.”

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Debunking the myth of Chinese centrality to Asia

Shyam Saran

August 1, 2017

India is in a prolonged standoff with Chinese forces on the Doklam plateau. China may have been caught off guard after Indian armed forces confronted a Chinese road-building team in the Bhutanese territory.

Peaceful resolution requires awareness of the context for the unfolding events. China has engaged in incremental nibbling advances in this area, with Bhutanese protests followed by solemn commitments not to disturb the status quo. The intrusions continued.

This time, the Chinese signalled their intention to establish a permanent presence, expecting the Bhutanese to acquiesce while underestimating India’s response.

Managing the China challenge requires understanding the background of Chinese civilisation and the worldview of its people formed over 5,000 years of tumultuous history.

Caution is required before mechanistically applying historical patterns to the present, as these are overlaid with concepts borrowed from other traditions and behaviour patterns arising from deep transformations within China and the world at large.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

In Beijing, 20 Million People Pretend to Live :: 在北京,有2000万人假装在生活 (full translation)

By Megan Pan 

July 27, 2017 
Editor’s note: On July 23, the writer Zhang Wumao published an essay called “In Beijing, 20 Million People Pretend to Live” to his public WeChat account. As of the following morning, it had accumulated more than 5 million views and nearly 20,000 comments. 
Of course, the article was removed that very afternoon.
But by then, the essay had attracted thousands of responses. As our correspondent Megan Pan wrote for Radii:
Though the hubbub online has died down, the essay, a meditation on varying facets of life in Beijing, has since spawned over a hundred thousand countering essays in response. Titles include plays on the original essay’s title, such as “In Beijing, 20 Million People and “In Beijing, 20 Million People are Bravely Living,” and even direct digs at the author, such as “Mr. Zhang, You Aren’t Even a Beijing Kid So Why Are You Acting Like a Know-it-all.” The original essay has been lambasted as “making a fuss over nothing.”
But “In Beijing, 20 Million People Pretend to Live” resists easy summarization – it’s framed as a series of Zhang’s loosely related reflections on living in Beijing, heavily supported by anecdotes. He touches on a variety of topics that hit close to home: the everyday absurdities of urban sprawl, the never-ending struggle to buy a house, and alienation from home. As a nonlocal from Shaanxi who has been living in Beijing for the past eleven years, he also attempts to negotiate the tensions and differences between locals and nonlocals.
What follows is Megan Pan’s translation of that now-censored essay.

在北京,有2000万人假装在生活In Beijing, 20 Million People Pretend to Live

Monday, July 31, 2017

Behold the Trump boomerang effect

Fred Hiatt
Editorial Page Editor
The Washington Post

July 30 2017

Did your head spin when Utah’s Orrin Hatch, a true conservative and the Senate’s longest-serving Republican, emerged last week as the most eloquent spokesman for transgender rights? Credit the Trump boomerang effect.

Much has been said about White House dysfunction and how little President Trump has accomplished in his first six months. But that’s not the whole story: In Washington and around the world, in some surprising ways, things are happening — but they are precisely the opposite of what Trump wanted and predicted when he was sworn in.

The story of how a worm turned... into a bringer of medical miracles

July 31, 2017

PLOEMEUR (France) — For centuries, the only use humans found for the lugworm — dark pink, slimy and inedible — was on the end of a fish hook.

But the invertebrates’ unappreciated status is about to change.

Their blood, say French researchers, has an extraordinary ability to load up with life-giving oxygen.

Harnessing it for human needs could transform medicine, providing a blood substitute that could save lives, speed recovery after surgery and help transplant patients, they say.

“The haemoglobin of the lugworm can transport 40 times more oxygen from the lungs to tissues than human haemoglobin,” says Dr Gregory Raymond, a biologist at Aquastream, a fish-farming facility on the Brittany coastline.

“It also has the advantage of being compatible with all blood types.”

Trump is something the nation did not know it needed

George F. Will
Opinion writer
July 28 2017

Looking, as prudent people are disinclined to do, on the bright side, there are a few vagrant reasons for cheerfulness, beginning with this: Summer love is sprouting like dandelions. To the list of history’s sublime romances — Abelard and Heloise, Romeo and Juliet, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy — add the torrid affair between Anthony Scaramucci and President Trump. The former’s sizzling swoon for the latter is the most remarkable public display of hormonal heat since — here a melancholy thought intrudes — Jeff Sessions tumbled into love with Trump. Long ago. Last year.

Sessions serves at the pleasure of the president, who does not seem pleased. Still, sympathy for Sessions is in order: What is he to do? If dignity concerned him, he would resign; but if it did, he would not occupy a Trump-bestowed office from which to resign. Such are the conundrums of current politics. Concerning which, there is excessive gloom.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Trump is killing the Republican Party

By Joe Scarborough

Washington Post

July 16, 2017

I did not leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left its senses. The political movement that once stood athwart history resisting bloated government and military adventurism has been reduced to an amalgam of talk-radio resentments. President Trump’s Republicans have devolved into a party without a cause, dominated by a leader hopelessly ill-informed about the basics of conservatism, U.S. history and the Constitution.

America’s first Republican president reportedly said , “Nearly all men can stand adversity. But if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” The current Republican president and the party he controls were granted monopoly power over Washington in November and already find themselves spectacularly failing Abraham Lincoln’s character exam.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

This is what foreign spies see when they read President Trump’s tweets

Nada Bakos

June 23

Nada Bakos was formerly a CIA analyst and targeting officer. She is the author of the forthcoming book “The Targeter: My Life in the CIA.”

The Washington Post

Every time President Trump tweets, journalists and Twitter followers attempt to analyze what he means. Intelligence agencies around the world do, too: They’re trying to determine what vulnerabilities the president of the United States may have. And he’s giving them a lot to work with.

Trump’s Twitter feed is a gold mine for every foreign intelligence agency. Usually, intelligence officers’ efforts to collect information on world leaders are methodical, painstaking and often covert. CIA operatives have risked their lives to learn about foreign leaders so the United States could devise strategies to counter our adversaries. With Trump, though, secret operations are not necessary to understand what’s on his mind: The president’s unfiltered thoughts are available night and day, broadcast to his 32.7 million Twitter followers immediately and without much obvious mediation by diplomats, strategists or handlers.

Intelligence agencies try to answer these main questions when looking at a rival head of state: Who is he as a person? What type of leader is he? How does that compare to what he strives to be or presents himself as? What can we expect from him? And how can we use this insight to our advantage?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Is it inequality of income we care about — or inequality of opportunity?

By Steven Pearlstein

July 1

The Washington Post

Inequality may well be the issue of our time. But is it inequality of income we care about, or inequality of opportunity? And what is opportunity — the opportunity to do better than our parents, or better than ourselves at an earlier age, or does it mean doing better relative to everyone else? Can some of us get wealthier without making others poorer? Would inequality recede if we just had more economic growth?

These questions animate two new books. One is “Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That is a Problem and What To do About It,” by Richard Reeves, a British-born philosopher by training, politician by instinct and a Brookings Institution social scientist by trade. (Richard is also a friend). The other, “The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live and Die,” is by Keith Payne, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina. Both books are authoritative, thought provoking, accessible and well worth a spot on your summer reading list.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Once a model city, Hong Kong is in trouble

Keith Bradsher

June 30, 2017

HONG KONG — When Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule two decades ago, the city was seen as a model of what China might one day become: prosperous, modern, international, with the broad protections of the rule of law.

There was anxiety about how such a place could survive in authoritarian China. But even after Beijing began encroaching on this former British colony’s freedoms, its reputation as one of the best-managed cities in Asia endured.

The trains ran on time. Crime and taxes were low. The skyline dazzled with ever taller buildings.

Those are still true. Yet as the 20th anniversary of the handover approaches this weekend, that perception of Hong Kong as something special — a vibrant crossroads of East and West that China might want to emulate — is fading fast.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Economic model that Asia has used for decades is now broken

Kevin Hamlin AND
Dexter Roberts

June 28, 2017

Thirty minutes by car into the scrubby desert outside Korla, in China’s remote Xinjiang region, a textile manufacturer owned by the Jinsheng Group is building its latest factory complex.

Inside the 16 billion-yuan facility—a collection of stark white warehouses surrounded by an enormous expanse of pristine artificial grass — are rows of huge cotton spools, more than a million bright red and blue spindles, and almost no people.

A few German engineers wander around, making sure the equipment runs at peak efficiency.

This is the depopulated future of an industry that has lifted millions of Asians out of poverty.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Capital controls, high-speed rail behind collapse of Bandar Malaysia deal?

A US$1.7 billion property deal that was expected to ease the debt burden of Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fell through on Wednesday (May 3). A Malaysian minister says the government needs time to find a new partner.

KUALA LUMPUR: China's capital controls, bidding for the KL-Singapore High Speed Rail project and Bandar Malaysia's increased worth may have contributed to the collapse of a US$1.7 billion deal to offset a Malaysian state fund's debts, according to analysts and people familiar with the matter.

TRX City, owned by Malaysia's finance ministry, on Wednesday (May 3) announced it had terminated an agreement for a China Railway consortium to be the master developer of Bandar Malaysia - a major residential and commercial real estate project, set to house a terminal for the high-speed rail (HSR) line connecting KL to Singapore on the basis it "failed to meet payment obligations outlined in the Conditions Precedent”.

The S$139 billion city next to Singapore has a big China problem

June 23, 2017

SINGAPORE — The US$100 billion (S$139 billion) city rising from the sea next to Singapore has hit a roadblock: China’s capital controls.

The dream of a Malaysian version of Shenzhen — largely funded by Chinese developers and buyers — with hotels, offices, golf courses, tech parks and thousands of ritzy new apartments, is having to adapt after China’s government clamped down on an exodus of money for investment in overseas property.

Developers’ sales offices in China that once brought in buyers by the hundreds are now pushing developments in Chinese cities. Subsidised junkets that flew in prospective buyers to development sites in the southern Malaysian state of Johor have dwindled. And some buyers who paid deposits for yet-to-be-built homes are considering cancelling their purchases.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

SLA to take over land at Lorong 3 Geylang when lease expires in 2020

Every owner of the affected 191 terrace houses will be assigned a SLA officer, who will guide them through the lease expiry process.

SINGAPORE: The land currently occupied by 191 private terrace houses at Lorong 3 Geylang will return to the state when its current lease expires on Dec 31, 2020, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) confirmed for the first time on Tuesday (Jun 20).

The land is slated for future public housing, the authority said in a news release.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Driverless buses to be rolled out on Singapore's roads by 2020

By Loke Kok Fai

10 Apr 2017 12:21

SINGAPORE: Driverless buses could arrive on Singapore roads by 2020, following the signing of a partnership agreement between the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and ST Kinetics to develop and trial these buses on Monday (Apr 10).

Two 40-seater electric buses are likely to be tested in locations such the National University of Singapore (NUS) campus and Jurong Island. The buses will gradually be introduced to other trial sites, and eventually extended to public roads within and between towns.

The buses will use a satellite-based global positioning system (GPS) and sensors to scan and determine their location and immediate surroundings. They will also have radars and sonars that are able to detect other vehicles and pedestrians up to 200m ahead.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Trump could spur the rise of a new, not-so-liberal world order

By Fareed Zakaria

Opinion writer

June 1 2017

Washington Post

We now have a Trump Doctrine, and it is, at least in its conception and initial execution, the most radical departure from a bipartisan U.S. foreign policy since 1945. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and national security adviser H.R. McMaster say that President Trump has “a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.” The senior officials add: “Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.” That embrace has now led the United States to withdraw from the Paris accord on climate change, signed by 194 other parties.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Why China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ plan is doomed to fail

Eerie similarities with Japanese scheme 20 years ago suggests a future of white elephants, wasted money and corruption on a scale never seen before

By Tom Holland

6 Aug 2016
South China Morning Post

Facing a deep slowdown after years of investment-fuelled growth that culminated in a huge property and stock market bubble, the leaders of Asia’s largest economy come up with a cunning plan. By launching an initiative to fund and construct infrastructure projects across Asia, they will kill four birds with one stone.

They will generate enough demand abroad to keep their excess steel mills, cement plants and construction companies in business, so preserving jobs at home. They will tie neighbouring countries more closely into their own economic orbit, so enhancing both their hard and soft power around the region. They will further their long term plan to promote their own currency as an international alternative to the US dollar. And to finance it all, they will set up a new multi-lateral infrastructure bank, which will undermine the influence of the existing Washington-based institutions, with all their tedious insistence on transparency and best practice, by making more “culturally sensitive” soft loans. [i.e. bribes] The result will be the regional hegemony they regard as their right as Asia’s leading economic and political power.

How the free-lunch fallacy is hurting our government, health care and retirement

This is no free lunch. And our belief that there is holds the country back.

By Allan Sloan 
Columnist, Washington Post
May 20 2017

One of the biggest problems our country has is the growing idea that there really is such a thing as a free lunch: that we can get magic money to pay for things we don’t want to pay for out of our own pockets.

I think the free-lunch fallacy helps explain why three of our nation’s biggest problems seem so intractable: having a rational health-care system; producing a reasonable federal budget; and dealing with the “retirement crisis.”

Let me explain how I came up with this linkage.

As a born contrarian — okay, as a stubborn old guy — I tend to do the opposite of what’s popular. So instead of rushing to opine about the newest excesses enveloping Our Nation’s Capital, I decided recently to spend quantity time reading two books that interested me, taking some deep breaths and doing some thinking.

Both of the books — “An American Sickness” by Elisabeth Rosenthal (Penguin Press, 2017), and “Dead Men Ruling” by Gene Steuerle (Century Foundation Press, 2014) — offer amazingly helpful history and insight into how our health care and federal budget systems, respectively, have turned into such messes.

In addition, I got a bonus. Because I read both books at the same time, I saw the “free lunch” link between them. That, in turn, led me to get some stock and bond numbers that help explain why we as a nation haven’t set aside enough money to pay for baby boomers’ retirement.

China’s ratings downgrade, explained

Keith Bradsher

May 26, 2017

BEIJING — Moody’s Investors Service downgraded its rating of China’s sovereign debt one notch on Wednesday (May 24), citing concerns over growing debt in the country, which has the world’s second-largest economy. In recent years, as China’s stunning economic performance of past decades has become difficult to sustain, the country has used debt to fuel growth.

Now, Moody’s says that China will have to borrow more and more to maintain the levels of economic growth the government wants. The concerns Moody’s raises will sound familiar to those who follow the Chinese economy closely. Expressed by one of the world’s top credit ratings agencies, however, the misgivings will be harder to ignore.


In short: China has a lot, and has accumulated it very fast.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Hot dog issue has made Malaysia famous for the wrong reason: The Star columnist

May 18, 2017

Wong Chun Wai

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Looks like the monsoon season is starting soon. That is when it starts to rain cats and dogs. No, these animals will not fall from the skies, but it is best that Malaysians are well-prepared for the floods.

The authorities, we are very sure, will not let anyone be confused. Personnel from the Civil Defence Force and Fire Department are already on standby to face the wettest month of the year.

According to one report, tourists will almost certainly experience thunderstorms and floods - they have been predicted to take place on 83 per cent of the 25 days with rainfall. Light rain may also occur but is rare, being observed on only 11 per cent of those days.

This means our rescue teams can be expected to work really hard and as one will say - work like a dog.

Understanding the UK’s strange Singapore envy

Justin Fox

April 12, 2017

A pro-Brexit argument that always makes me giggle a little is that leaving the European Union will allow the United Kingdom to become the new Singapore. That’s right — the land of hope and glory, home to the world’s fifth-largest economy, wants to emulate its steamy little former colony, population 5.4 million.

When you look at the per-capita income data, though, you can kind of understand it. Once-poor Singapore passed the UK in 2006, and the income gap has grown to almost US$3,000 (S$4,214) a year since then.

How to figure out if an old HDB flat is worth its asking price

Chua Mui Hoong

Opinion Editor

APR 8, 2017

Those looking to buy old resale Housing Board (HDB) flats would have cause for hesitation following comments by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong last month.

Perturbed by reports that Singaporeans were forking out big sums to buy old HDB flats, he said buyers should not assume that all old HDB flats will be eligible for the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers).

Under this hugely popular programme, the Government compensates HDB flat owners for their old flats and acquires the blocks for redevelopment. Home owners can buy flats in the new developments.

Some savvy owner-investors are known to peruse maps of HDB towns to identify potential Sers hot spots and buy into them in anticipation of Sers. Precincts near MRT stations, built to low-density (think low-rise blocks with large surface carparks) that are 40 years and above, are possible candidates.

Chinese deals in Malaysia under scrutiny

May 7, 2017

China's growing involvement in Malaysia has been praised and panned in recent years. The Sunday Times looks at how its widening presence is drawing increasing attention in the first of a two-part series. Tomorrow, why the promise of new ports in Malaysia with help from China may not materialise.

Shannon Teoh Malaysia Bureau Chief and
Trinna Leong Malaysia Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur

The slew of projects and investments by China's state-owned enterprises and their soft loans have been a major talking point in Malaysia since 2015, when they helped prop up state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which was burdened by huge debts.

China's deep financial involvement in Malaysia came under fresh scrutiny last week with the collapse of the Bandar Malaysia township deal.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Comey firing reminds us of a bigger danger

By Fareed Zakaria 
Opinion writer 
May 11 2017
Washington Post

I have tried to evaluate Donald Trump’s presidency fairly. I’ve praised him when he has appointed competent people to high office and expressed support for his policies when they seemed serious and sensible (even though this has drawn criticism from some quarters). But there has always been another aspect to this presidency lurking beneath the surface, sometimes erupting into full view as it did this week. President Trump, in much of his rhetoric and many of his actions, poses a danger to American democracy.

The United States has the world’s oldest constitutional democracy, one that has survived the test of time and given birth to perhaps the most successful society in human history. What sets the nation apart is not how democratic it is, but rather the opposite. U.S. democracy has a series of checks intended to prevent the accumulation and abuse of power by any one person or group. But there is one gaping hole in the system: the president.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Love, marriage, kids — life doesn’t follow a set timeline. So don’t expect it to.

By Lisa Bonos 

April 26 2017
Washington Post

When I was 24, my great-aunt and -uncle asked about my life goals. At the time, I was working nights as a copy editor and dreamed of someday shifting into a full-time writing job. (One where I got to write more than headlines and didn’t have to work until midnight!) I also remember telling them that I wanted to write a memoir someday, get married and have kids — with a move out West somewhere in there. Your standard American dream, journalist’s edition.

I remember my great-aunt telling me that I hadn’t lived enough to write a memoir yet. (She was right!) And my great-uncle asking about the marriage thing: “When do you want to get married … in 10 years?”

Ten years?! By then I would be 34, which seemed ancient.

“Nah, more like somewhere in between,” I said. After all, my mother had married at 27 — and my parents were and still are incredibly happy — so I assumed my life would take a similar trajectory. (My summation was also in line with norms for my generation; as of 2016, the median age for first marriage is 29.5 for men and 27.4 for women.)

Freedom of speech doesn’t include the right to be bigots

Chirag Agarwal

May 11, 2017

The recent death of Singapore’s first Minister for Social Affairs, Mr Othman Wok — who went against the grain to champion a multiracial Singapore at the time of independence, when racial tensions were at a fever pitch — reminds us that a thriving plural society is not built by accident.

It takes a concerted effort by leaders to unite the populace, and for the different communities to communicate in a bid to understand and integrate with one another.

Commentary: When it comes to politics, celebrities should put up or shut up

We should stop falling into the trap of thinking that celebrity bestows wisdom on people, especially on issues where they have limited expertise or authority, argues Channel NewsAsia's David Bottomley.

By David Bottomley

12 May 2017

SINGAPORE: Robert de Niro has been channelling Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull this week, landing verbal punches on President Donald Trump for his attitude towards the arts, his immigration policies and perceived political shortcomings in a number of other areas.

In a speech made in acceptance of the Film Society of Lincoln Centre’s Chaplin award, de Niro lambasted President Trump’s “hostility” towards the arts, suggesting that there were political reasons behind the proposed cuts to some arts funding.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

HDB and the 99-year lease - How much?

[A series of articles arising out of a comment by a Minister on people buying older flats, and expecting the govt to bail them out when the lease expires and the flats (and the land) reverts to the govt.]

Will you still love your HDB flat when it's over 64?

Wong Siew Ying

APR 12, 2017

Data shows that buyers don't mind old HDB flats, paying similar prices for flats whether they are 25 years old or 50. But beware a potential sharp fall when flats cross 64, with less than 35 years of lease remaining. That's when financing restrictions kick in.

Home ownership may not always be the best option

April 15, 2017

SINGAPORE — Even if you have enough money for a down payment on a flat, deciding whether to buy can be difficult. Property prices have been sliding and may continue to decline, so renting may be better. On the other hand, you’ll pay money to a landlord if you rent and end up with nothing to show for it.


From a purely financial perspective, it may be better to rent than to buy. While the decision might be different if property prices start to rise rapidly, anecdotal analyses here and more detailed research abroad show that renting can be less expensive.

Writer for Singapore property portal Lynette Tan found, for example, that a buyer who purchased a condominium for S$1.5 million would have a total cost of ownership of at least $217,168 over four years, which is about S$55,000 more than renting. The price would need to increase to $1.63 million just to cover costs, so the homeowner might be better off renting unless prices rise more than 2 per cent per year.

Century 21’s Ku Swee Yong similarly wrote in The Edge that a buyer would spend S$220,461 over the four-year period from 2015 to 2019, while renting could cost just S$178,000. Unless demand for properties start to exceed the pace of construction, Mr Ku concluded, it is better to rent than to buy.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Why hackers failed to sway the French vote for president

Rachel Donadio

May 9, 2017

PARIS — French readers awoke Monday to headlines about its young president-elect, Emmanuel Macron, and his decisive defeat of the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

What they did not find were details of the “massive” hacking attack on the Macron campaign that was announced late Friday night.

The hacking occurred just before the start of a 44-hour ban on campaigning and broadcast media coverage of the election, lifted only when the final polling stations closed Sunday night, and some Macron supporters initially feared that his inability to respond could be devastating on the eve of voting.

News of the hacking lit up social media, especially in the United States, where the attack echoed one on the Democratic National Committee last year, and where far-right activists have joined together to spread extremist messages in Europe.

But in France, the leak did not get much traction. It certainly did not appear to give an edge to Le Pen, who won 33.9 per cent to Macron’s 66.1 per cent on Sunday. The hacking operation was met, instead, with silence, disdain and even scorn. Why?

'Encouraging' response to WP proposal for redundancy insurance: Daniel Goh

Singapore Parliament
Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo, however, warned of "serious downsides" to a redundancy insurance scheme.
By Jalelah Abu Baker

8 May 2017

SINGAPORE: During an adjournment motion in Parliament on Monday (May 8), the Workers’ Party (WP) refloated its proposal for an insurance scheme aimed at helping retrenched workers while they look for another job, saying a “modest” public consultation on the scheme was encouraging.

Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Daniel Goh said that the Redundancy Insurance scheme would reduce financial pressure, especially on older workers above the age of 40 who find it harder to get re-employed, and also reduce insecurity for younger workers, who are being increasingly laid off. Older workers face a “triple whammy", with higher risk of getting laid off, having to support their children, and their elderly parents, and paying more bills, he said.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Ploughing on: The faces and insecurities of Singapore’s elderly working poor

CNA Insider
The poverty rate has been rising among the working elderly, one study shows. Why do seniors here feel the need to work for long hours and low pay, despite the help schemes available for the needy?

SINGAPORE: They get taken for beggars sometimes as they poke through the trash, by people who exclaim “eiyuh!” in disgust. Impatient drivers honk as the duo push their laden trolleys along the road.

“My brother cannot hear the cars horn,” said the man who asked to be known as ‘Eddie’. “When I tell them he cannot speak or hear, most say sorry. Others curse and say, ‘****, lah, I don’t care’.”